The City of Chicago Commissioner Randy Conner said he will buckle down on the Department of Water Management employees that continue to walk around doing nothing as Chicago Citizens are leaving Chicago. New Chicago Water Rates are going to make more people move soon.
Today at 9:30 p.m. a Chicago Water Department driver of a bricklayer crew went to 5509 North Harlem Ave. to walk around and talk on her private phone to friends. Sister PLEASE, do not talk so loudly that everyone can hear you. When she went to Taco Burrito King she forgot to wear her hard hat and safety vest. Sister PLEASE. She left the place after complaining about the high price of pop and decided to get a drink at a lower price. Please flush next time.
She walked out of the place of business after leaving her truck unattended with a full load of FA6 backfill, expensive cast iron sewer grates, expensive material, and tools. Sister PLEASE.
She got into her truck, got in the left lane, went south on Harlem, and went to the Wendy’s for some more affordable drinks. She enjoyed the air-conditioning and continued talking on her personal cell phone while at the counter. What a great job Randy Conner made for this young thing. Thanks, Randy, your reforms include employees doing the same old stuff as the last management team. I really hate to see an empty truck, not on a job site, and not earning money for Chicago’s taxpayers. It is time theft.
Back at the Sunnyside yard, another bricklayer crew was getting disciplined for another round of loafing. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Inspector General can control the Chicago Newspapers all they want, you can not hide this stuff, or make it up.
Today, at the City of Chicago Department of Water Management’s Jardine Plant over 300 City of Chicago employees from the Jardine Plant, The Chicago pumping stations, and the DePaul Center employees waited for Commissioner Conners to get his ass to the meeting on time. Conners was at least 20 minutes late and cost the Chicago taxpayers thousands in wasted time. Conners arrived with his posse and launched again into a speech that made no sense at all. According to Conners, Rahm Emanuel is very happy with his subpar performance. Conners made the employees stand the entire time. Some of the ladies complained because he did not provide seating. Conners only had a few well connected private employees attend because the private owners are aware of the new policy to donate greatly to Alderman Burke and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Coo Coo Conners again wanted everyone to know he is large and in charge. He first said he opened his office to anyone and then stated all employees must follow the chain of command. Coo Coo.
Conners again said the North District General Superintendent Michael Dwyer was not fired, another bold face lie. Conners acted like a Chicago street thug and a man possessed with a need to prove he is in control of a job he can not handle. Look, folks, Conners knows nothing about the importance of a proper drinking water supply. He is getting paid to keep all the current lawsuits and future lawsuits from getting to Rahm Emanuel. Conners wanted everyone to know he is going to promote everyone he wants and do whatever he wants. Rahm Emanuel needs to terminate this goof that just does not have the class to do things the right way. The same crap that got the Department of Water Management into the mess it is in now will continue by the leadership of foolish nonsense. I hope when all the City of Chicago taxpayers sees the new water bills in the mail, they remember this warning, fire Rahm Emanuel.
Look if you need to tell everyone you are the boss, you are not. Time for Rahm to find a replacement, another poor choice, and decision.
On Thursday, April 12, 2018, Commissioner Randy Conner, led a posse of underlings that currently lead the Chicago Department of Water Management. The Chicago Water Department has decades of second-rate losers that have been promoted by second-rate racists. You can not change the culture of the water department because cancer runs too deep.
At the 7:00 a.m. meeting Conner declared with a bullhorn to his lips, Get on the train or the train will run you over. Conner tried to make himself a tough-talking wise guy and made it clear he was running the show. If he had any brains, he would have kept his low-profile job, but dangle a few pennies, and these people jump. Conner must not have paid attention to all the Commissioners terminated since I started at the department.
Conner is not ready to control the click that makes all the decisions at the water department. Conner does not know he is a puppet. Conner does not have what it takes to lead this ragtag circus.
At the meeting, Conner went on to do damage control and say Michael Dwyer was not fired because of what was printed by Fran Spielman. Fran Spielman hit the nail on the head. A full-blown cover-up continues at the FOIA Department and Commissioner Conner is still trying to stop FOIA requests from being fulfilled.
The North District has some great workers, but the management has stunk for twenty years. Conner told the workers the North District is the worst district. It is also the whitest. Conner seems to be a racist and ignorant to the culture that has rotted the Department of Water Management. Conner thinks Facebook pages of blacks working happily at the Department of Water Management is going to fix things. Conner has no power to remove the private contractors that control the Water Department. The 11th Ward, M…. Management, and private contractors control the Department. If you think the companies that contribute to Alderman Burke and Rahm Emanuel are going to get forced out, you are sadly mistaken.
Conner, please stop all those private meetings with employees promising them the moon. Please also tell Wallace Davis to stop making promotional promises. While you are at it, make sure you stop the mistreatment of black women that get hurt on the job. Forcing out black single mothers is crude and low class. Also, keep your bullhorn close to your other bighorn.
Three more high-level employees are in the crosshairs in the continuing fall-out from racist, sexist and homophobic emails in Chicago’s scandal-scarred Department of Water Management.
Jennifer Izban, a $107,220-a-year assistant to the commissioner, has resigned. Izban served as a top aide to former Managing Deputy Commissioner William Bresnahan, one of the first to be fired in connection with the email scandal.
Stan Decaluwe, a foreman of water pipe construction paid by the hour, is facing termination proceedings. And Dan Misch, a $106,599-a-year assistant district superintendent, has been recommended for an undisclosed suspension.
All three were targeted by Inspector General Joe Ferguson, who uncovered the racist, sexist and homophobic emails while investigating allegations that now-fired district superintendent Paul Hansen had used his city email account to sell guns.
They are either accused of sending the offending emails or receiving them and doing nothing to stop the hate-filled exchanges.
Water Management spokesperson Megan Vidis said the three new cases were “part of the same investigation by” the inspector general.
Vidis refused to identify the three employees targeted for disciplinary action, citing privacy provisions included in the collective bargaining agreement. But other sources confirmed their names to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Vidis would say only that Water Management Commissioner Randy Conner had “initiated disciplinary action against three employees” and that “one resigned” while the “disciplinary process is ongoing for the other two.”
“Commissioner Conner has been and continues to be committed to an inclusive, welcoming environment at the Department of Water Management, and will not tolerate racism, sexism or homophobia,” Vidis wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Last summer, a housecleaning triggered by the email scandal flushed out Water Management Commissioner Barrett Murphy, Bresnahan, Hansen and two other top managers. Murphy’s ouster was a shocker because he and his wife are close friends with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his wife, Amy Rule.
Earlier this month, nearly two dozen current and former Water Management employees complained that the same hate-filled culture persists, even after a white commissioner was replaced with an African-American.
A black woman said she was told she wouldn’t get a promotion because she “wouldn’t go under the desk.”
African-American men said they were denied promotions and overtime and denounced on a daily basis as the N-word with profanity attached.
Blacks of both sexes who dared to complain about discrimination said they were punished with trumped-up charges based on hearsay.
Conner did not attend that hearing, claiming he wasn’t invited. But he did send a one-page summary that outlined the changes he has made and the annual sensitivity training he has ordered to make it clear there is “zero tolerance for any racism, sexism or homophobia.”
The ugly testimony turned up the heat on Emanuel to settle a lawsuit filed last year by four current and two former Water Management employees – all African-American.
A few days later, the City Council’s 11-member Progressive Caucus demanded a second hearing to hear from the Departments of Law, Human Resources and from Ferguson.
It was Bozo who uncovered the hate-filled emails while investigating allegations about Hansen misusing his city email account.
Emanuel responded to the ugly testimony by arguing that it would take a lot longer than six months to change a hate-infested Water Management culture decades in the making. But he categorically denied that nothing has changed.
“You cannot judge [Conner] on culture because the culture of that department has been around for decades. But as it relates to the rules, he’s been very clear,” the mayor said then.
“I can say this as a mayor when I’ve had to deal with changing a culture around City Hall. You can’t judge Randy’s success in six months taking on decades of a culture. … You can judge him [on], did he make a clear line where people know now there’s somebody with a different attitude and a different perspective?”
Ferguson also accused a high-level employee whom sources identified as Hansen of sending emails describing African-Americans as “wild animals” with the subject line “Chicago Safari Tickets.”
“If you didn’t book a Chicago Safari adventure with us this 4th of July weekend, this is what you missed,” the email stated, listing the number of people shot in Englewood, Garfield Park, Austin, Lawndale, South Shore, Woodlawn and other neighborhood plagued by gang violence.
It concluded: “We guarantee that you will see at least one kill and five crime scenes per three-day tour. You’ll also see lots and lots of animals in their natural habitat.”
State officials are investigating a longtime employee whose personal email address is a source of racist, sexist and anti-gay emails at the center of the Chicago water department’s burgeoning scandal, including a fake “Chicago Safari” tour making light of the shootings of children in black and Hispanic neighborhoods
The state began a review into Frank Capuzi — an investigator with the Workers’ Compensation Commission and son of a former Republican state lawmaker — following Tribune inquiries into offensive emails forwarded from his address to a water department boss and others.
The state’s actions mark the first time the email scandal has created fresh headaches for another government body.
“The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission is currently investigating the highly offensive and inexcusable email messages from one of its employees,” said commission spokesman Ben Noble. “After a complete and thorough administrative review, the commission will determine what actions may be appropriate.”
Capuzi hung up on a reporter and did not respond to follow-up emails sent to his work and personal addresses. He has worked for the state since 1975 and makes more than $114,000 per year.
Capuzi, 62, was a longtime GOP committeeman on the West Side, having won the 26th Ward post as recently as 2008 and the 27th Ward at least as far back as the early 1980s, according to records from the Chicago Board of Elections.
The “Chicago Safari” email was among at least four of the most offensive ones that circulated among water department bosses that came from Capuzi’s personal address.
The city redacted the address in the messages released via open records requests. The Tribune through interviews and sources, confirmed it was Capuzi’s personal AOL address. It is the same email address Capuzi listed in the past as a contact for his political work.
Even though Capuzi didn’t use his government email address, Chad Fornoff, executive director of the state Executive Ethics Commission, said that this type of matter should be referred to the executive inspector general for investigation into whether any violations of state law, rules or policies have occurred, including conduct unbecoming a state employee.
Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration’s code of personal conduct states, in part, that employees should conduct themselves “with integrity and in a manner that reflects favorably upon the state.” That code, a union bargaining agreement and the state ethics law are all part of the review, the commission said.
The Rauner administration confirmed that the Workers’ Compensation Commission had launched an investigation. The commission is a quasi-independent body with members appointed by the governor and currently has six Republicans and four Democrats. “The administration was not previously aware of these emails, and the language used is inappropriate and unacceptable,” said Rauner’s spokeswoman Laurel Patrick.
The revelation of how the offensive messages found their way into the water department comes amid the city inspector general’s ongoing investigation into the sharing of racist, sexist and anti-gay emails among city water workers and their bosses.
Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s findings have led to five high-level water department bosses being ousted, including Commissioner Barrett Murphy; his deputy, William Bresnahan; and Paul Hansen, a district superintendent and the son of former Democratic Ald. Bernie Hansen (44th). The Tribune reported earlier this week that a private contract employee was caught up in the scandal and has been blocked from working on city projects.
The Tribune, under a public records request, had obtained nearly 1,300 emails from the water department, including several emails forwarded from Capuzi to Hansen.
The Tribune found that at least four offensive emails shared with Hansen and others came from Capuzi’s address. The email threads include the names as “Frank Capuzi,” “Frank” and “F. Capuzi.”
A July 2013 email with the subject line “Chicago Safari Tickets” states that if “you didn’t book a Chicago safari adventure,” for the Independence Day weekend, “you missed” the shootings of a 5-year-old boy and two others in West Pullman; the shooting of a 7-year-old boy in Chatham; and the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old boy in Humboldt Park.
“We guarantee that you will see at least one kill and five crime scenes per three day tour. You’ll also see lots and lots of animals in their natural habitat. Call and book your Chicago Safari today,” the email reads. An image shows four white people in safari gear taking pictures of several black people trying to break into a car.
The emails states that safari guests will stay in a hotel with triple deadbolt locks and window bars, but the safari guides cannot “guarantee Bell Hops won’t run off with your luggage.” The safari promises the rooms will be “99% free of drug needles and crack pipes.”
The Tribune on Friday obtained the Chicago safari email, uncovered as part of the inspector general’s investigation, through a public records request.
Another titled “Watermelon Protection” was sent to Hansen in July 2014 and included an image that depicted a scarecrow, dressed in a white KKK robe and pointed hood, amid a watermelon patch.
Hansen, in turn, forwarded the email to Murphy. “I don’t understand,” Hansen wrote in the email to Murphy.
There is a March 2014 email received by “F Capuzi” then forwarded by “Frank” to Hansen with the subject line “The World’s Shortest Essay — Gotta Love the Texas School Systems.”
The email contained a joke that spares few in its offensiveness. It refers to an essay contest held for Texas teens that had to include elements of religion, royalty, racism, disability and homosexuality. The “winning” essay read: “My God,” cried the Queen, “That one-legged nigger is a queer.”
In turn, Hansen forwarded the email to Bresnahan and two other water department bosses.
Paul Hansen was a supervisor in the water department who allegedly used his city email to negotiate firearms deals. (July 18, 2017)
An April 2017 email forwarded from Capuzi’s address announces that “Today is Heterosexual Male Pride Day!” It makes that declaration after showing a series of photographs of steaks grilling, a row of beer taps and a naked woman.
The body of the email states: “To all of my friends who are tired of taking a BACK SEAT to gays, lesbians, homosexuals, trans genders, women soldiers, bra burners, female boy scouts, women libbers, tree huggers, and eco-commie-environ-freaks, the looney left, Greens, social justice warriors and worse of all — those fucking Democrats!”
Hansen could not be reached for comment. Capuzi’s boss, Robert Ruiz, said he did not know about the emails and declined to comment further.
Paul Finamore, a Chicago area businessman and longtime friend of Capuzi, was listed as receiving some of the emails and said he was appalled at the content when shown the watermelon protection and the shortest essay emails.
“Oh, my God,” Finamore said after he reviewed the emails at the Tribune’s request. “I don’t remember seeing anything of this, to tell you the truth.”
Finamore, the chief executive officer of Hairline Creations Inc., said Capuzi was a groomsman for his 1989 wedding party and that the two had hunted together.
“This man is a racist,” Finamore said. “You’ve got to know this guy. He’s a good, good guy.”
It started with a complaint that a Chicago water department superintendent was using a city email address to conduct private firearms transactions. The inspector general’s investigation turned up a lot more. Besides negotiating to buy or sell four guns and five cars, Paul Hansen traded racist emails with other supervisors and visited websites not related to his job — some containing sexually explicit materials — on “thousands of occasions” in a four-month period.
On city email, on a city computer, on city time.
He also forwarded a confidential workplace violence complaint filed by a subordinate to the employee accused in the complaint, according to IG Joseph Ferguson’s report.
The top bosses who were looped in on some of those emails didn’t put a stop to them. Sometimes they even joined in. Photos of naked women, jokes about fucking watermelon, a picture of an African-American baby in a bucket described as a swimming pool, a message with the subject line “U Know U Be In Da Hood” — it was all just another day at the office at the Department of Water Management.
A trove of emails obtained earlier by the Tribune contained more of the same: a Confederate flag, a reference to “negro midgets,” a crude joke about an employee needing “an inflatable doughnut on the chair” after a Gay Pride weekend. It’s the kind of stuff you’d expect from fourth-grade boys with pigs for parents. And it was all happening on your dime, taxpayers.
Here’s the other outrage: Nobody is surprised. The water department is larded with workers that somebody sent. In 2006, the department was the focus of a federal corruption trial that showed how then-Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration rewarded campaign workers with jobs, promotions and overtime. Daley’s patronage chief, Robert Sorich, maintained the secret “clout list,” rigged interviews and falsified documents to grease the hires.
In one of the emails, Hansen, the son of ex-44th Ward Ald. Bernie Hansen, bragged about his ability to “swing elections.”
“The water department has been staffed at its highest levels by persons whose social or political connections were their chief or only qualification for the job,” Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 6th, chairman of the City Council’s black caucus, said this week. “The emails have exposed that these individuals hold black Chicagoans in contempt.”
The good news is that Mayor Rahm Emanuel isn’t having it. He’s made a clean sweep of top management, including Water Commissioner Barrett Murphy, a personal friend.
Hansen and Thomas Durkin, general foreman of plumbers, were told to quit or be fired. Both quit. (The IG’s report didn’t name them, but Tribune reporters identified them through City Hall sources.) Others should follow. Managers and supervisors will undergo training about workplace discrimination, and an outside firm is studying how to address and prevent such conduct citywide.
That’s all good. If this is how the bosses behave, then bigots at all levels are emboldened, and workers who are offended or victimized feel they have no recourse. The city needs to make sure its employees feel safe — and obligated — to report such behavior. That means providing the mechanisms and the training to make it happen.
Changing the culture also means aggressively rooting out the bad actors, and we suspect there are many more. Yet the IG’s report notes that its access to emails is limited by city law department protocols. The IG “must submit requests for emails using limiting search terms and date ranges” and must reduce its request if it gets too many hits, the report says.
As journalists, we’re familiar with such roadblocks; they’re meant to keep us from reporting things that would embarrass public officials. What purpose could they serve in this case? The law department ought to remove those barriers and let the investigation go as far and as fast as it can.
In a federal lawsuit filed last month, a group of African-American water department employees say they were denied promotions, subjected to racial slurs and sexually harassed because of their race, and that their bosses “have done nothing” about it.
The city should pull out all the stops to address those complaints. Too many people at the water department got their jobs for the wrong reasons and never had to worry about losing them. They ought to be nervous now.
The son of a former Chicago alderman used his city email account to buy or sell “at least four firearms and five cars” and send hate-filled emails describing African-Americans as “wild animals.”
Inspector General Joe Ferguson on Monday issued a quarterly report with several explosive new allegations about a Department of Water Management employee whom sources identified to the Sun-Times as former District Superintendent Paul Hansen.
Hansen is the son of former longtime Ald. Bernard Hansen (44th), who presided over Wrigleyville during the Cubs’ marathon battle for lights at Wrigley Field. The son’s checkered past with the water department includes allegations that his political clout helped him get his job back after a DUI conviction.
As the Chicago Sun-Times was first to report, Ferguson originally uncovered the racist, sexist and homophobic emails circulating in the water department while investigating allegations that Paul Hansen had used his city email account to sell guns.
New disclosures include a claim that the now-fired employee sent an email with the subject line “Chicago Safari Tickets” to multiple high-ranking water department colleagues.
“If you didn’t book a Chicago Safari adventure with us this 4th of July weekend, this is what you missed,” the email states, listing the number of people shot in Englewood, Garfield Park, Austin, Lawndale, South Shore, Woodlawn and other neighborhood plagued by gang violence. It concludes: “We guarantee that you will see at least one kill and five crime scenes per three-day tour. You’ll also see lots and lots of animals in their natural habitat.”
Yet another email with the subject line, “Watermelon Protection” includes the image of a Ku Klux Klan robe on a stick in the middle of a watermelon patch. Another under the subject line, “U Know U be In Da Hood” contains several photos, including one of a wheelbarrow full of watermelons with a sign that states, “Apply for a Credit Card. Free Watermelon.”
Hansen was further accused of: “repeatedly” sending sexually explicit photos and videos; using his city email account to negotiate personal purchases or sales of at least four firearms and five cars and using a city computer to access websites unrelated to city business on thousands of occasions over a four-month period, including accessing sexually explicit videos on YouTube.
Hansen hung up on a Sun-Times reporter seeking comment on the new allegations.
Ferguson’s quarterly report also reveals a Water Management chemist “harassed” a former and current employee “through the transmission of multiple text messages and phone calls that included derogatory and threatening messages.”
The alleged harassment occurred “after both employees had already filed multiple complaints–including with the Chicago Police Department, the Department of Human Resources, and OIG — against the chemist for aggressive and threatening behavior toward them.
Newly-appointed Water Management Commissioner Randy Conner followed Ferguson’s recommendation to fire the chemist, only to have the fired employee file a grievance. Arbitration is ongoing.
Another now-fired Water Management supervisor was accused of sending racist and hateful emails that referred to Muslims as “rag head —suckers” and describing African-Americans as “wild animals” who are “untamed” in response to Hansen’s “Chicago Safari” email.
The fired supervisor also suggested that people “should have thrown grenades at a black Italian politician instead of bananas,” Ferguson wrote.
Last month, a housecleaning in the department at the center of the Hired Truck and city hiring scandals swept out Commissioner Barrett Murphy, managing deputy William Bresnahan and Hansen.
Sources said Murphy was held responsible for the chain of racist and sexist emails; Murphy was among those receiving the emails but did not discipline the employee.
Ferguson’s investigation is ongoing and is almost certain to trigger more high-level firings, City Hall sources said.
The City of Chicago is under full attack after finding out just a few of the violent racist emails that are circulating at the Chicago Department of Water Management. The City of Chicago is subject to more lawsuits in the future thanks to the great reporting of Chicago Clout. Chicago Clout is going to help every lawyer in Chicago that is going to give honest government back.
The City of Chicago under Rahm Emanuel has the Mosquito program.
“Crews led by the Chicago Department of Water Management and others are dropping larvicide briquettes down all 210,000 catch basins on the public way. The slow-dissolving briquettes will, for the next five months, prevent large amounts of mosquito larvae from developing into biting adults. Additionally, the Department of General Services is ensuring treatment of over 3,000 catch basins not on the public way.”
The real program is a political program to Southside reverends to supply blacks in need of a temporary job. Rahm Emanuel supplies money and taxpayer funded goodwill to his benefit. One Chicago employee with clout will take the minivan (leased) with a van load of blacks and make sure the work is completed. The program helps high ranking black commissioners keep the political clout train rolling. The Jackson Family got a taste of this loot.
Many of the black kids were treated like crap and told not to use the bathrooms and stay away from the regular white and Hispanic crews. They were treated very poorly. One supervisor would always call them niggers. The fuckin niggers are here again. The high ranking North District boss said, “I’ll get rid of those niggers”. Many of the workers would laugh. One black kid had an accident after he was told, “take a shit somewhere else”. The way these black kids were treated was something out of a horror movie. I reported this behavior but nothing was done.
The Inspector General has known about Paul Hansen for years and nothing was done. The Chicago law department has had complaints about the rigged promotion of Paul Hansen, and nothing was done. Maybe Alderman Tunney will return my calls and he can explain why he put told Rahm Emanuel to put Paul in as District Superintendent. Maybe Plumbers Local 130 can explain their part in this mess.
I will have some more items for your interest. I hope the lawyers contact all those black kids and get them some relief. I’ve got some video for the upcoming election. Change. Frank Coconate is going to have some more action soon. “revenge is a dish best served cold”
Barrett Murphy gave Paul Hansen the North District Superintendent promotion over much more qualified licensed employees. Paul Hansen had a rigged promotion if there ever was one. The City of Chicago Law Department covered up for this this when complaints were made. Ole Barrett is kicking himself in the ass now!! Gee, Paul Hansen was a great pick, eh you unemployed ass wipe. Alderman Tunney also used his muscle to put Paul Hansen in as the top dog at the Department of Water Management. Luci Pope Cozzi Anderson went to visit Paul Hansen at his office and the curtains were closed. Luci was accused of deleting Paul emails and covering up for this clown for years. Now that bribes from contractors is in the FBI laps, more fun and game are in order. Barrett told the entire North District how Paul Hansen would be great for the Department on June 8, 2011. Every promotion since the Shakman release from Federal Oversight resulted in Blacks, whistleblowers, and those with no clout, has been a joke. Maybe Luci Pope and Jennifer Isban can get fired soon. All of Paul Hansen discipline writeup are now going to be reopened, and in Federal court the way things are going. Please see an excellent article in the Chicago Tribune. Remember, if you are black or a whistleblower, please call Patrick McDonough or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you got a bad injury settlement, please email email@example.com Attorneys are on standby. I also want to know why did the FOIA officer at the Department of Water Management hide email demands of Paul Hansen years ago? Fire all of them.
Hal Dardick, Ray Long and Todd LightyContact Reporters
Chicago Tribune Luci Pope Cozzi Anderson
City emails newly obtained by the Tribune cast light on the scope and offensiveness of racist, sexist and anti-gay slurs by politically connected supervisors at the top levels of the Chicago water department.
An image of a Ku Klux Klan “scarecrow” amid a watermelon field, a picture of a naked woman on a beach and off-color comments about gay people found their way into inboxes between early 2013 and April — a month before an investigation of the emails led to high-ranking officials losing their jobs at the Department of Water Management.
The emails, among nearly 1,300 provided by the city in response to a request under the Illinois open records law, include more overtly sexist and anti-black messages than those in an earlier, more limited batch obtained by the Tribune that also contained anti-Islamic insults. And the new emails for the first time reveal homophobic statements.
They also show that they were sent and received during a years-long period without any sign that supervisors, including recently ousted department Commissioner Barrett Murphy, did anything to quash the troubling chatter. And in at least one case, Murphy forwarded an offensive email to another department employee.
Many of the emails obtained by the Tribune go to the heart of an ongoing investigation by the city’s inspector general. The original sender of many of them is former district superintendent Paul Hansen, the son of a onetime alderman whose political connections go back to the administration of former Mayor Richard M. Daley. In one 2015 email not long after the elections for City Council and mayor, Hansen boasts of his ability to “swing elections.”
Lawsuit alleges racism at roiled Chicago water department
That was sent to Murphy, whose City Hall connections also date back to the Daley years but grew under Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The mayor and Chicago first lady Amy Rule are friends with Murphy and his wife, Lynn Lockwood, the onetime chairman and treasurer of one of Emanuel’s political funds. Murphy also received many of the racist, sexist and homophobic emails.
For Emanuel, the scandal raises issues he’d rather put behind him as he starts to gear up to make a bid for a third term in office in the 2019 elections. And it comes with risks of political peril among key groups of voters that he has worked hard to cultivate: women, gays and African-Americans.
Emanuel has tried to restore his reputation in the city’s historically vote-rich African-American community, after the 2015 release of a police dash-cam video of a white police officer shooting black teen Laquan McDonald 16 times.
2 more Water Department supervisors put on leave in email investigation
The mayor also has toiled to put an end to clout at City Hall. But the political connections of the supervisors involved in the email controversy harken back to the era when Donald Tomczak controlled the water department that became a focus of a 2006 federal corruption trial. Emanuel first ran for Congress during the Tomczak era, and political troops loyal to Tomczak helped the mayor win his first elected office. And Murphy, Hansen and other members of the group show up on a clout list presented at the federal corruption trial held 11 years ago.
Emanuel has taken steps to address the email controversy, starting in May when he appointed Randy Conner, an African American, to lead the department after the resignations of Murphy, Hansen and deputy commissioner William Bresnahan. Attempts to reach all three for comment were unsuccessful.
At the time of their resignations, mayoral spokesman Adam Collins said the mayor acted “quickly and decisively” by asking for Murphy’s resignation after learning of what was then an 8-month-old probe into the emails by city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson. That investigation started as a review of emails about gun deals tied to Hansen that ultimately led to the discovery of the offensive emails.
In early June, after those initial resignations, the Tribune obtained emails sent by Hansen that included racially insensitive, anti-Islamic and sexist messages, and the department’s newest commissioner announced that all managers and supervisors in his department would be provided with additional training on federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations designed to prevent discrimination in the workplace
In late June, Thomas J. Durkin, the general foreman of plumbers, and John “Jack” Lee Jr., a district superintendent, were placed on administrative leave pending disciplinary decisions. They have since resigned, according to a department spokesman. Attempts to reach Durkin and Lee for comment were unsuccessful.
A week after they were placed on leave, a federal lawsuit was filed alleging that African-American employees of the Chicago water department routinely were denied promotions, subjected to racial slurs and sexually harassed because of their race.
In response to questions about the latest emails obtained by the Tribune, Emanuel spokeswoman Shannon Breymaier said the mayor “acted swiftly” to show his intolerance for the behavior and that “the folks implicated have been removed.” She said he backs efforts by the new commissioner to step up equal employment training for department managers and supervisors. “Finally, the move to take immediate action is completely consistent with the mayor’s efforts to eliminate clout at City Hall so that city employees are hired based on what they know, not who they know,” Breymaier added.
One jarring example of a racist email was forwarded from Hansen to Murphy in July 2014. It was titled “Watermelon Protection” and included an image that depicted a scarecrow, dressed in a white KKK robe and pointed hood, amid a field of watermelons. “I don’t understand,” Hansen stated in his message to Murphy.
Another racially insensitive email dates back to February 2013, when Hansen was replying to an email that Murphy first forwarded to him. The original message concerned an “urgent request” from ComEd to stop work near an alternate power line serving schools, a fire station and senior citizen homes until the main line was fixed so those facilities wouldn’t lose their electricity feed if it were accidentally damaged.
In response, Hansen wrote: “I think the only thing that the line does not feed is the center for the severely challenged negro midgets, you know the place, its where we hired all those laborers from 7 years ago.” Murphy then forwarded that message to another department employee.
Even an August 2015 note from Murphy describing an equation for calculating the circumference of a circle drew a convoluted, racially charged attempt at humor from Hansen.
Hansen’s message referred to the sex organs of white and black men, Caitlyn Jenner, Bill Cosby, a Confederate flag, and Dorothy and the Tin Man. Within minutes, Hansen then forwarded the same distasteful message to Durkin, whose response included: “I’ll have to get back to you with my answer after I discuss this with the All Powerful OZ.”
Hansen also distributed emails with an anti-gay tenor, including a February 2013 reply to Murphy, who in oversized letters noted that the Gay Pride festival and parade would be split over two weekends. It also was sent to Bresnahan.
One minute later, Hansen replied it meant someone might be absent from work and would need an “inflatable doughnut on the chair” when he returned.
Hansen in October 2015 sent Murphy a link to a YouTube video titled “Redneck Homemade Bikini Contest.” The video depicts several scantily clad women on a wooden stage with a male emcee kicking of the contest by saying, “Here she is guys … let’s hear it.”
Hansen in March 2014 forwarded to Durkin, Lee and Bresnahan a joke that spares few in its offensiveness. It refers to a “world’s shortest essay contest” held for Texas teens that had to include elements of religion, royalty, racism, disability and homosexuality. The “winning” essay read: “My God,” cried the Queen, “That one-legged nigger is a queer.” Lee later responded, “I’m crying.”
The emails obtained by the Tribune show that as recently as April, Hansen was receiving offensive emails. An April message sent to Hansen referred to “HETEROSEXUAL MALE PRIDE DAY!”
It makes that declaration after showing photographs of steaks grilling, beer taps and a naked woman, and is preceded by this introduction: “To all of my friends who are tired of taking a BACK SEAT to gays, lesbians, homosexuals, trans genders, women soldiers, bra burners, female boy scouts, women libbers, tree huggers, and eco-commie-environ-freaks, the looney left, Greens, social justice warriors and worse of all — those f——- Democrats!”
One email was sent by a deputy human resources commissioner in October 2014 to several water department supervisors, including Murphy, who was first deputy commissioner at the time. It suggested they should take part in “respectful workplace” training on the issues of harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
“Although (the Department of Human Resources) has not made this training mandatory,” it states, “there are several reasons that each supervisory employee should receive this training.”
The emails also show that Murphy often forwarded to his wife various news summaries, including one in August 2015 where Emanuel announced city worker health care benefits will cover gender reassignment services. “What the……,” Murphy commented.
Murphy’s connections to City Hall predate the current mayor. He worked for Daley in multiple capacities, including in the mayor’s office, and first started at the water department in 2004, when Tomczak reigned.
During the 2006 trial of Robert Sorich, Daley’s patronage chief, a once-secret clout list with names of politically connected people seeking jobs and their sponsors was entered into evidence. Murphy’s name appears on the list as the sponsor for one person seeking a job.
Murphy gained influence under Emanuel, who promoted him to first deputy commissioner in 2011 during the early months of his administration. In April 2016, Emanuel appointed him commissioner of the department — a position that proved relatively short lived because of the email scandal that surfaced in May.
Hansen, son of former longtime Ald. Bernie Hansen, 44th, also appears on the clout list as someone who sought a promotion.
During the trial of Sorich, prosecutors charged that Daley administration officials handed out jobs, promotions and overtime work to those who campaigned for Daley and his allies. Sorich was convicted for his role in a hiring fraud scheme to rig interviews and falsify documents.
Hansen, in one water department email sent to Murphy in March 2015, boasted of his political prowess in the context of a recently concluded City Council race on the Northwest Side. “I told you I could swing elections,” Hansen wrote.
Other water department email senders and recipients who showed up on the clout list include Durkin. The sponsor listed for Durkin was Tomczak, who was sent to prison after pleading guilty in 2005 to commanding a political army of patronage workers and taking almost $400,000 in payoffs from companies that wanted business from the city’s corrupt Hired Truck Program.